Pennsylvania motorists might be seeing stricter drunk driving laws in the future if lawmakers follow recommendations from scientists. Every state has a legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent, but a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends that the limit be lowered to .05 percent. The report makes several other recommendations towards the goal of lowering drunk driving fatalities. They include increasing taxes on alcohol, cutting hours that alcohol is available for purchase, cracking down on sales to minors and limiting alcohol advertising.
The proposals are expected to be challenged by the alcohol and hospitality industries. In Utah, where the legal limit is already set to be lowered to .05 percent at the end of 2018, the American Beverage Institute has opposed the lowered limit in newspaper ads. The Distilled Spirits Council says that lowering the legal limit won’t deter repeat DUI offenders, and those are the drivers who represent the majority of drunk driving fatalities.
The report states that progress was made in cutting down drunk driving deaths in the last decades of the 20th century, but since then it has stalled or even reversed. The panel blames this on the increased availability and affordability of alcoholic beverages, more advertising and even the popularity of caffeinated and energy drinks, which when combined with alcohol could make it harder for people to know when they’re too drunk to drive.
When people have failed breath tests, that alone does not prove guilt. Drunk driving charges could be dropped if there is evidence that test results are wrong. Defense attorneys often challenge the results on the basis that the machine was improperly calibrated.